Does anybody besides me remember the Theremin? There must be at least a few people out there in Los Angeles who do, because we filled up the Bigfoot Lounge on Los Feliz last September (2003) when the club presented a triple bill of theremin artists. The night was a total blast, and all the musical entertainment was good, but easily the standout of the three was Project Pimento, a sort of jazz quintet that uses a theremin as its lead instrument (instead of the more traditional saxaphone or trumpet).
The theremin is an electronic device that looks more like a science-fiction gizmo than a musical instrument. It has two electronic poles, one for volume and one for pitch, and the performer never actually touches the theremin; he (or she) changes the pitch and/or volume by moving his hands closer or farther away from the two poles. The result can sound like either a violin or a wordless female vocal (think of the theme from STAR TREK), or it can sound like some kind of unearthly electronic tonalities (which is why the instrument was overused in 1950s sci-fi movies, turning its sound into an instant cliche and preventing serious artists from becoming interested in using it any other way).
Project Pimento plays a variety of lounge-type music, including the theme from the old PETER GUNN television show. Their debut album also includes such tracks as “Call Me,” “Black Magic Woman,” “Goldfinger,” and the aforementioned STAR TREK theme song. (And it is a song, with lead vocalist Lola Bombay belting out the seldom-heard lyrics written — but never recorded — by Gene Roddenberry. One should also mention that Project Pimento’s version of the Peter Gunn theme also includes rarely heard lyrics.)
All of this is a long prologue building up to mentioning that Project Pimento, which is based in San Francisco, will be making a trip down to Los Angeles for two dates in November. On Friday the 12th they will be at Lava Lounge in Hollywood. On Saturday the 13th they will be at the Purple Orchid in El Segundo. Both shows are at 9:00pm.
Because of its use in 1950s sci-fi soundtracks (and also in some suspense films of the 1940s), the theremin should be of interest to fans of horror and science-fiction. Even if you aren’t particularly interested in the theremin, you will find Project Pimento’s renditions of movie theme songs to be great, campy fun, and if your a classic TREK fan, you won’t find many other chances to heard the words to the opening theme music. And just in general, Project Pimento’s mix of electronics with lounge music recalls the amusing genre once known as “Space Age Bachelor Pad Music.” It’s an out-of-this-world experience you won’t want to miss.